CLEVELAND - In board rooms, on chalkboards, and in dreams, this was the way the Cleveland Cavaliers were supposed to play this season.
Beat the opposition up with interior strength, get production and steady nerves from the bench players, and let the future stars take over down the stretch.
Whether it was the start of a trend or an aberration, all of that happened Thursday night. Just like it was drawn up, the Cavaliers came away with a solid 95-86 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
It snapped an eight-game losing streak to Detroit (14-9) and, in their sixth try, finally earned the Cavaliers (6-16) a win on national television. More than that, it proved the plan in place can work, a theorem that was severely tested over the past three weeks.
"This is what we've been looking for," Cavaliers coach Paul Silas said. "This is the best we've played together in a while. This is a good win. It is something to build from."
Carlos Boozer, a 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate, and LeBron James showed off, combining for a masterful performance.
James attacked the basket, which led to 16 first-half points and freed him up for jump shots later in the game. He made two of them on back-to-back possessions in a key fourth-quarter stretch to hold off a Pistons' run. James finished with 23 points and tied a season-high with nine assists.
Boozer's refined jump shot was clicking, and he was his usual scrappy self around the basket. Boozer made 11-of-16 shots for a career-high 28 points and had nine rebounds.
He scored eight points in the fourth quarter, making 6-of-8 free throws to hold the lead, and also pulled down three of his rebounds.
"Of late, we've been playing teams great for three and a half quarters and have been giving it up in the last seven or eight minutes," Boozer said. "Today we concentrated and got stops. We needed a win like this bad."
Boozer's domination helped the Cavaliers dominate inside, scoring 46 points to the Pistons' 22. They also outrebounded the Pistons 45-28. It helped make up for the Cavaliers' usual mistakes, especially turnovers. The Cavaliers committed 24 of them, but good transition defense meant the giveaways led to just 16 Detroit points, while the Cavaliers scored 18 off 14 Pistons turnovers.
Perhaps the most important statement came after a 10-2 Pistons run cut the Cavaliers' 16-point lead to 85-78 with four minutes left.
Silas turned to reserve point guard Kevin Ollie, who handed out assists on both of James' aforementioned jumpers and made a jumper of his own.
At the other end, the Cavaliers made the Pistons earn everything. In the fourth quarter, Michael Stewart blocked two shots, James swatted one and so did Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who also had 10 points. Throw in two dunks from Ricky Davis, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, and it was a complete performance.
"The thing I was really impressed with about our team is when (Detroit) made a run we were able to withstand it," James said. "We brought our 'A' game and just kept it on them the whole night."
NBA 2003-04 All-Star Voting
Game to be held: Feb. 15 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles
Voting Through Dec. 10
Vince Carter, Toronto, 696,652; Jermaine ONeal, Indiana, 542,673; Kenyon Martin, New Jersey, 208,081; Scottie Pippen, Chicago, 116,143; Ron Artest, Indiana, 111,838; Richard Jefferson, New Jersey, 68,476; Carlos Boozer, Cleveland, 64,680; Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Atlanta, 64,607; Toni Kukoc, Milwaukee, 51,648; Tyson Chandler, Chicago, 44,264.
Allen Iverson, Philadelphia, 566,713; Tracy McGrady, Orlando, 417,529; Jason Kidd, New Jersey, 359,000; LeBron James, Cleveland, 242,695; Baron Davis, New Orleans, 181,828; Paul Pierce, Boston, 89,382; Gilbert Arenas, Washington, 62,053; Chauncey Billups, Detroit, 60,009; Reggie Miller, Indiana, 53,844; Ricky Davis, Cleveland, 48,044.
Ben Wallace, Detroit, 597,959; Alonzo Mourning, New Jersey, 156,455; Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cleveland, 127,677; Eddy Curry, Chicago, 54,974; Antonio Davis, Chicago, 50,322.
Kevin Garnett, Minnesota, 539,280; Tim Duncan, San Antonio, 515,009; Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas, 198,804; Karl Malone, L.A. Lakers, 180,826; Carmelo Anthony, Denver, 170,121; Pau Gasol, Memphis, 132,686; Chris Webber, Saramento, 121,270; Peja Stojakovic, Saramento, 116,419; Antoine Walker, Dallas, 82,938; Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix, 61,502.
Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers, 577,505; Steve Francis, Houston, 286,515; Gary Payton, L.A. Lakers, 247,880; Steve Nash, Dallas, 189,512; Emanuel Ginobili, San Antonio, 176,048; Stephon Marbury, Phoenix, 142,604; Mike Bibby, Saramento, 135,197; Tony Parker, San Antonio, 94,188; Ray Allen, Seattle, 75,028; Michael Finley, Dallas, 74,078.
Shaquille ONeal, L.A. Lakers, 534,380; Yao Ming, Houston, 414,063; Vlade Divac, Saramento, 62,701; Brad Miller, Saramento, 51,410; Radoslav Nesterovic, San Antonio, 37,484.
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